Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#357 - Buddy Bradford

Buddy Bradford looks cold posing in Oakland, a few miles north of where he was a big deal player as a kid in Pacoima, California. While in '73 he would be joined in the majors by another player from his block - Gary Matthews - it wasn't such a fun year for him. A shoulder injury would get him some DL time and though he hit eight homers in limited at bats, it seemed clear that his career was winding down rather than ratcheting up. Were it not for Dick Allen going down himself with an injury it is likely Buddy never would have been called up from Triple A that year even though his numbers at that level - 14 homers in 225 at bats - were pretty good. Too many injuries contributed to a derailed career. But at least he had his other one on which to fall back.

Buddy Bradford was born in Mobile, Alabama, pretty much in the same area that another Sox center fielder to be - Tommie Agee - was born. By the time he was four his dad had passed away and the family relocated to the Pacoima area where he would grow up. In high school he ran track, was a halfback, and played ball. He also played for ex-Negro Leaguer Chet Brewer's teams in the area. By his senior year he'd received some interest and signed with the White Sox after graduating in '62. His start in D ball that summer was pretty crappy but in '63 and '64 he would hit .285 with over 70 RBI's each season in A ball. In '65 his averages fell back as he moved to Double A (.248) and Triple A (.224). Then in '66 he ratcheted things up with a .299, 13 homers, and a .381 OBA in a little over half a season at the lower level. That year - and the next - he got some short looks in Chicago. In '67 he had perhaps his best season in the minors with a .271 average, 17 homers, 24 stolen bases, and 66 RBI's in Triple A. For the weak-hitting Sox that was good enough to get him on the roster for good the following spring.

Big things were expected of Bradford in Chicago when the '68 season opened. He was viewed by many as the heir apparent in center field to Tommie Agee, recently sent to the Mets. Buddy had an excellent arm - he led his league in assists twice in the minors - some power and speed. But between coming up during the Year of the Pitcher and playing in Comiskey half the year his numbers were on the light side offensively. Then in '69 he was having a much better year when he went down with a hip injury. Both years he played primarily in right as Ken Berry was the main guy in center. In '70 he split time with Berry in center but the Sox were miserable that year and Buddy wasn't helping with his .187 average. That June he was sent to Cleveland with Tommie Sisk for Bob Miller and Barry Moore. For the Indians the average didn't get much better but the power did and he finished up as the regular guy in center. On top of that he missed time that season to military duty. In '71 another bad start got him sent to the Reds for Kurt Bevacqua and he spent the rest of the season as a late-inning replacement. After the season Cincinnati sold him back to the Sox.

Buddy's second round in Chicago began for the most part back in Triple A where he hit .277 with 12 homers. In his few games up top he hit pretty well but it was back to the minors to start '73. In '74 he had a bang-up spring and was hitting .333 when he smashed into the wall attempting to catch a Ray Fosse fly and broke his collarbone, pretty much killing his season. In early '75 he hurt his hamstring and was only hitting .155 - but with 15 RBI's in only 58 at bats - when he was sent to the Cards for Bill Parsons. Back in the NL in another reserve role he did better this time, hitting .272 in 81 at bats. After the season he was traded back to Chicago for Lee Richard. In round three for the Sox he hit .219 in 160 at bats before being released that July. That was finally it for Buddy and he finished with an average of .226 with 52 homers and 175 RBI's and a telling 411 strikeouts in just over 1,600 at bats.

In '77 Bradford attempted to revive his career in Japan for the Kintetsu Buffaloes but it was a short-lived comeback as he tore up his hamstring sliding. He returned to the States and worked for a year as a marshall in LA and then coached for the Cubs in the minors. After a few years in security work, he took a more active role investing. He started a company called C&P Investments and through it did a bunch of local real estate building and investing which had him sitting pretty at the time of a '94 interview linked to here. Since then there is nothing out there on Buddy although it appears he still resides in the same neighborhood.

'64 was a pretty big season for Buddy and may give an idea how things would have gone without injuries. The second star bullet is a bit vague but I guess his 24 steals led the league. Cute cartoon - I guess that was his first real estate investment.

Ok, so I noticed this while doing research on Buddy. If you take his cards in sequence, specifically the '74, '71, '70, '76, and '69 in that order - although I guess you could switch '70 and '71 - you get his whole swing. I stole photos of those cards from the net (I was too lazy to scan them all) and here is the progression:

Pretty cool, right? Or just the result of some late-night insomnia. But I tried. And I do like those old blue Sox uniforms.

So for the hook-up we get together two guys who saw very little of each other even though they both played for the Sox:

1. Bradford and Ken Henderson '73 to '75 White Sox;
2. Henderson and Willie Mays '65 to '72 Giants;
3. Mays and Jerry Koosman '72 to '73 Mets.

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